Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Saidah Baba Talibah hit our radar recently upon the release of her 'Phone Demos.' The low-fi, gritty, raw quality of her phone demos apparently came about by accident while she was in a writing session. With no studio or tape recorder to record the songs created, the only device available to document the new material in progress was—a cell phone.
The sessions, recorded as wave files, easily converted to mp3’s to burn them to CD. The reactions to the sound of the recordings were described as reminiscent of old blues recordings (eg. Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith). Inspired by countless reactions, releasing the phone demos was a way to include people in on an entire journey—starting with the raw beginnings of the songs—just voice, guitar ...and a cell phone.
Despite her McGuyver-like abilities, Saidah remains true to our favorite format.
“I can’t remember my childhood without the record player playing. When you walked into my house, you were greeted with the sound of music. The living room (which was located at the front of the house) was where we entertained with the family’s go-to records, because we couldn’t fit the entire collection in our living room, the remainder were in the basement in my mother’s music room with the reel-to-reels and her upright piano.
My mother (a singer, actor, and writer) was onstage doing the musical Don’t Bother Me I Can’t Cope when she was pregnant with me, hence why I probably gravitated towards musicals in the beginning, I think for the drama. I vaguely remember watching it, but I know for a fact that I was deeply moved by the Broadway production of The Wiz and then to have the record in my possession, in my own living room. In my solitude, I’d push the coffee table off to the side to create my own stage to choreograph my own The Wiz. I swirl around the four corners of the room transforming myself into the powerful tornado that took Dorothy out of Kansas or I’d get on my hands and knees and act as the Mean Ole Lion, roaring and singing gruffly. And times when I’d feel a little scared or lonely at school or in my young life, I’d sit in a corner comforting myself, rocking myself back and forth singing the song that Dorothy sang when she was scared and lonely:
“When I think of home,
I think of a place where there’s love overflowing…
I wish I was home,
I wish I was back there with the things I’ve been knowing…”
Needless to say, musicals pulled at my heartstrings. My record player and I were very good friends during that time. And when I started to branch out from musicals, I still gravitated towards music that held me emotionally. See, listening to a record for me was a full body experience. Rarely, even at a young age, did I not listen to the entire record from top to bottom, over and over and over again, learning each nuance, creating my own production, playing each character with fervor and serious dedication.
Sitting on my living room floor was like story time for me, my own private adventure. And each time I gingerly took the record out of its sleeve to place it on the turntable, set the needle on the record and prepared myself for my story, I’d always learn or hear something new. Or I’d fall deeply in love all over again like it was the first time. And the album artwork, liner notes, lyrics…all the information! Pictures and drawings, the love and care that would go into tying all the images in with the story of the record…I was in HEAVEN!!
So naturally, I would very easily get stuck on certain records, playing them over and over, learning, feeling, tasting each nuance, each hue, never wanting to miss anything. Sometimes that took days, sometimes weeks. And it was like prying teeth for me to open up to a new record, like leaving all of your friends at your old school for a new school with a new set of friends. I spent many a day with Stevie Wonder’s albums, namely Fulfillingness First Finale with one of my favourite songs, ‘Too Shy To Say’ (which I vowed, as a young girl, to sing this song to my true love.)
Another album I spent a lengthy amount of time with, was Andy Bey & The Bey Sisters' Now, Hear! (which, as a bonus, was my family – my mother, her brother and sister). I’d listen ever so attentively to how my family blended. I especially loved ‘A Taste Of Honey’ and it was when I’d lived with this record that my musical curiosity opened up. The songs they were singing were standards, sung in a jazz style. This opened my mind to questioning who were the writers of these songs and who else had sung these songs. So, off on another adventure! Listening to records were like a, ‘choose your own adventure’ book at this stage in my life. How exciting to find Michael Jackson singing ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ to find out that Bill Withers wrote it and to search through the records to find Bill Withers singing his own song!
Yes, I’m still that person that prefers the physical representation of music in my hands with the artwork, liner notes and all, and CD’s have all of the above, but they’re not the same. I remember buying the CD of The Wiz, and while it was nice to have, I missed the warmth and individuality that each record held.”
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Posted by Jon at 10:21 AM